Equestrian sport and a love for horses is deeply rooted in Tryon, North Carolina, which many horsemen and women have called “home” for generations. As the sport continues to grow, we’re shining the spotlight on our “Local Legends” who have played significant roles in the development of equestrian sport in the area and at the Tryon International Equestrian Center.
Say hello to Vick Russell, our first Local Legends feature. From the barns and show rings to small towns and main streets, the Russell family has built quite the beloved name for themselves in our community. Continue reading to learn about Vick and his family’s history in Tryon, his involvement in the equestrian community, learn his thoughts on the impact TIEC has made, and more.
Can you tell us about your history in Tryon, North Carolina?
My father was a horseman here in Tryon in the 50s, so I grew up in and out of here. I’ve always been involved in Tryon and the horse shows, including the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club horse shows, for my whole adult life. I showed at Harmon Field, and my father showed there, too. When FENCE [Foothills Equestrian Nature Center] was started, I helped raise the money for that. I’ve been riding in the Hunt Club for pretty much all of my life. I think I won the first $25,000 class that was given by the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club. We’ve had a great experience. I’ve been on the board of directors twice with the Hunt Club and I have a real soft spot in my heart for all of them.
How has TIEC impacted equestrian sport in our area?
Roger Smith, Mark Bellissimo and I say that we were the first three to start here and think about this [TIEC]. I never even dreamt that it would be anything like this. It’s such a generous and wonderful partnership from the people who are doing this. They created this for not only the horsemen in this area, but the whole United States. This is one of the greatest facilities in the United States, and with really generous and lovely people behind it. It’s helped my family, and not only that, but my family has been here for 300 years. I have cousins working here, grandsons sitting in the announcer’s tower, and daughter-in-laws who are getting their judging licenses because of this. They’re making careers out of what the partnership has created. The big thanks is to Mark Bellissimo for his vision. I can’t say enough good things about what has happened here and how it’s created jobs for people, including my family. It’s been a great success.
What has been a highlight for you at TIEC?
I think just watching the growth [of equestrian sport] through TIEC welcoming people to the horse shows to audit it. So many people come here to enjoy this facility. What I like about this area and what the Tryon Riding & Hunt Club plays a part in, is that even the mechanics talk about horses here. You go and get your car fixed, and they’re talking about who won the grand prix. The local people are involved in this, and they all get business from this. That’s what I enjoy the most about it – it brings the community together.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I’d like to specially thank the partners. The people who created this are such generous and lovely people who really give back to this community, as well as to the horse industry all over the United States and world.
Thank you for all you do and have done for the sport both in our local community and across the country, Vick! We look forward to seeing the Russell family at TIEC again soon.